3 Apr

There is, Griselda discovered, quite a lot of water between the United Kingdom (where she lived in a tiny village called Swanspottle) and the rest of Europe. It might not look so much on a map, but maps have always been deceptive creatures, and Griselda had been cartographically deceived or she would never have decided to go all the way to Austria in order to find out about foreigners. She might be a witch with what amounted to spooky powers, but she’d never been over-fond of water. She wasn’t even keen on drinking the stuff unless it was flavoured with tea or hops.
She squawked as the coach she was sitting on began driving onto what looked, to her, to be an entirely unsuitable vessel for so many cars, buses and lorries that were lined up ready to crawl onto it. And the gangway looked none-too secure to her inexperienced eyes. Her imagination could detect a myriad ways that might lead to drowning even before she was aboard the vessel.
“By the devil, keep me safe,” she muttered. Her spells (and you will recall that she was most definitely a witch) always seemed to include some kind of invocation to a satanic power. There was a slight ripple in the cosmos and nothing else. Maybe the English channel was a tad more calm after her intervention, but then it had hardly been raging before her coach mounted the ramp and parked near the other end of the ferry.
Once on the ferry and having forced her legs up a narrow steel staircase she found herself in a lounge area, with a bar that was open. Now, I don’t want anyone to start thinking that Griselda was a slave to strong drink, but she did like a tipple from time to time, to soothe her nerves, she explained if asked. She had, after all, seen what the demon drink can do to a soul when her close friend Henrietta Blackboil became inebriated on an extremely regular basis.
If it weren’t for Griselda magically replacing Henrietta’s liver from time to time she feared her old friend would have passed on to the great spit-and-sawdust bar in the skies where ale runs freely and gin comes in barrels. But Henrietta was still safely in the land of the living, cursing one and all on an hourly basis.
Griselda settled into a seat on her own and cuddled the whisky in its plastic “glass” that had cost her an arm and a leg, as she put it to herself. A few other passengers eyed her suspiciously and she glared back at them until the ferry started gliding effortlessly out of the harbour and Griselda felt seasick despite the uncharacteristic flatness of the English Channel.
“Oh mercy me!” she moaned to herself.
“What’s up, missus?” asked a boy in summer shorts and sporting a tee-shirt proclaiming his fondness for New York.
The look she returned him, the bile she forced into it, the piercing cruelty in her eyes, all seemed to pass unnoticed as he shrugged his shoulders and sauntered off.
“That old biddy’s weird,” she heard him say to his parents who were sitting round a table that was far too close to where she was sitting for comfort.
Under normal circumstances she would have reacted acerbically and in a voice dripping with venom, but her stomach was rebelling and if it hadn’t been for her plastic cup of whisky she might have vomited over everything within ten metres. As it was, her respect for what the golden fluid had cost her kept it inside her and she merely turned green.
She was at her greenest when the man who had sat next to her on the coach they had travelled to Dover in, he who had suddenly and unexpectedly lost a great deal of weight behind a tree on the motorway as a consequence of one of Griselda’s invocations, sat next to her.
“That was a turn-up for the books,” he growled, “me excreting like that…. It must have been in me and waiting to get out for years!”
This kind of conversation, perfectly acceptable on dry land, was totally unwelcome on a ferry crossing the salty briny, and the already green Griselda started bubbling out of the corners of her mouth, and something unpleasant lethargically wibbled down her nose. She was close to being very sick indeed.
“The devil make me better,” she managed to glug without spilling anything, and the rising tide of unpleasantness slowly receded until she merely felt sick.
“You what?” asked the other, “the devil, you say?”
She glared at him. “First it’s that child over there and now it’s you!” she snapped. “All I ask for is a bit of peace and a chance to enjoy this very expensive liquid gold! And being accosted by a man wearing trousers at least ten sizes too big isn’t my idea of peace!”
“I can’t help it if I lost some weight on my way here!” he growled in reply. “I got the shits, I did, and they wouldn’t stop!”
“Why don’t you go to the upper deck and sea if the wind in your face will calm you down?” growled Griselda. “I hear it’s quite an experience,” she added, as close to seductively as she could manage.
“I can tell when I’m not wanted!” he glared, and sauntered off, holding a considerable amount of spare trouser waist in one clenched fist.
“There’s no joy in sailing the briny oceans,” thought Griselda as the ferry rocked the tiniest bit and a dribble of something toxic rose up her throat for a second time and threatened to wash over the carpeted deck. “I’ve flown here, there and everywhere on a whole multitude of rotten old broomsticks and never felt anything like this!”
The ferry rocked ever so slightly again and her face turned from greeny-pink to pinky-green.
“I’m not putting up with this one moment longer! She growled loud enough for the boy in summer shorts and brightly coloured New York tee-shirt to hear quite clearly.
“That old biddy’s kicking off!” he exclaimed to his parents.
“Stay close to us then,” his mother whispered, pulling him towards her until he was as good as part of her.
“Cheeky young pup!” growled a green Griselda, and she grabbed hold of a wooden bar that had somehow got loose from a shiny balustrade.
“Just the job!” she snarled at the boy, and then she did the most outrageous and scary thing he had ever seen any grown up person do.
She mounted the wooden bar as if it was any old broomstick and with a click of her knobbly knees and a twitch of her bony bottom she zoomed skywards whilst her complexion returned to normal.
“See you in Vienna suckers!” she shrieked back, waving. “And I’ll be there before you!” she added, winking at a passing seagull.

© Peter Rogerson 03.04.16


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